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Orbea variegata (Starfish Plant)


Scientific Name

Orbea variegata (L.) Haw.

Common Names

Starfish Plant, Starfish Cactus, Star Flower, Carrion Cactus, Carrion Flower, Toad Cactus, Toad Plant


Stapelia variegata (basionym), Stapelia atrata, Stapelia ciliolulata, Stapelia clypeata, Stapelia hanburyana, Stapelia planiflora, Stapelia rugosa

Scientific Classification

Family: Apocynaceae
Subfamily: Asclepiadoideae
Tribe: Ceropegieae
Subtribe: Stapeliinae
Genus: Orbea


Orbea variegata, also known as Stapelia variegata, is a leafless, succulent perennial, up to 4 inches (10 cm) tall and up to 20 inches (50 cm) wide, with 4-angled, cactus-like, toothed stems. The flowers are highly variable, star-shaped, off-white or yellow, strongly speckled with maroon and up to 3.2 inches (8 cm) in diameter. They may show regular markings or irregular ones. The flowers have 5-pointed or blunt lobes surrounding a central, pentagonal corona.


USDA hardiness zones 9a to 11b: from 20 °F (−6.7 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).

How to Grow and Care

Water sparingly, allowing the soil dry out between waterings and feed the plants during the active growing seasons. Keep almost dry in the winter but water sparingly occasionally to prevent wrinkling. As this plant comes from a winter rainfall area, it should be given a rest period with reduced watering during the summer months.

Soil should be well drained and rich in organic matter. It prefer a well-drained, sandy medium consisting of equal parts of washed river sand, potting soil and topsoil.

Try to emulate its natural habitat, placing it so that it is protected from the sun during the hottest part of the day. This plant prefer early morning or late afternoon sun. When grown as an ornamental plant in temperate zones it requires protection, as it does not tolerate freezing temperatures.

Keeping Starfish Plants and their roots free of pests such as mealy bugs is the real key to success as fungal attack often occurs as a result of damage to stems by insects.

Learn more at How to Grow and Care for a Starfish Plant (Orbea variegata).


Orbea variegata is native to South Africa (Cape Province).


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